Creating any new Porsche is one of the most challenging design and engineering tasks in the auto industry. Whether sports car, sedan or SUV it has to embody the essence of the iconic 911 but also meet the practical and aesthetic expectations of buyers who believe they know exactly what they want.
In the view of some critics, the 2009 Panamera sports sedan—or 4-door Gran Turismo as Porsche describes it—did not wholly meet those criteria, although with more than 150,000 built it was hardly a failure.
Now comes the second-generation Panamera based on Volkswagen Group's MSB (Modularen Standardbaukasten) modular platform that will underpin various VW Group premium vehicles including a sport wagon version of the Panamera. The vehicle is claimed by Porsche engineers to have been developed using know-how acquired from the 918 Spyder and 911 Turbo programs.
Said design boss Michael Mauer, who also heads VW Group design: “Its strengths have been reinforced, its weaknesses eradicated, and above all its character preserved.”
Use of the word “weakness” in connection with products is very unusual for any OEM let alone Porsche. But the Panamera has certainly been improved throughout. Its road presence is sharpened (there is an “arrow-shaped” hood), becoming more balanced front and rear. The overall exterior form, with its "faster" coupe-like roofline and new LED matrix headlamps, is now far more convincingly linked to the 911 than was the original.
Explained Porsche Chairman Oliver Blume: “In the new model, you see a completely redeveloped automobile.” The raft of new technologies includes optional 48-V electric anti-roll control; rear axle steering similar to that used on the GT3 and 3-chamber air suspension; and Night Vision Assistant, an infra-red-based imaging system that shows pedestrians and animals in the display cluster. The latest adaptive cruise control uses navigation data to allow the vehicle to adjust speed in relation to terrain as well as to vehicles ahead.
There are more lightweight structural solutions to mitigate "mass creep" and new engines—V6 and V8 gasoline engines and high performance V8 diesel. The ZF-sourced 8-speed PDK twin-clutch transmission also has been redesigned. All-wheel drive is fitted as standard at launch but 2wd is expected to become available.
Larger car, new HMI interfaces
Compared to the first generation Panamera, the new version rides on a wheelbase lengthened by 30 mm (1.9 in) and widened by 6 mm (.24 in). The new car's overall length is 2950 mm (116 in), a 34-mm (1.33-in) stretch. Although 5 mm (.19 in) taller, the sloping roofline is 20 mm (.78 in) lower over the rear passenger area.
The original 2009 car—described by magazine testers as "long, large and low"—was a pioneer in what is now called "mixed material" lightweight body construction. It featured a combination of seven steel alloys, cast and sheet aluminum, cast magnesium and various composites. Nonetheless, curb weight of the base 2wd model was 1800 kg (3969 lb). The 2017 model makes further use of aluminum alloys (bodysides, hood, liftback, roof and wheel arches) but still weighs 1994 kg (4398 lb) in base form which includes AWD.
Interior ergonomics are improved with interactive displays and a reduction in mechanical switchgear and enhanced and future-proofed connect capabilities. Porsche aficionados will be relieved to know that an analog tachometer remains the dominant driver-information source—it is still placed centrally in the instrument cluster, where it has been since the original 356. It is flanked by two 7-in displays offering speed, fuel state and other information.
The center of the console is occupied by a 12.3-in main touchscreen using the “next generation” Porsche Communication Management. The system embraces on-line navigation, smartphone integration via Apple Car Play, and a new “natural language” voice control. Louvers on a central air vent are electrically adjusted by touch sensitive sliders.
The InnoDrive adaptive cruise control “looks” 3 km (1.9 mi) ahead of the car and, using the navigation data and signals from radar and video sensors, computes optimal acceleration and deceleration rates, gear choice and coasting phases. Road bends, inclines and speed limits are all part of the applied intelligence.
Pumped up powertrains
Claimed by Porsche engineers to be the world's fastest production diesel vehicle, the Panamera is able to reach 285 km/h (177 mph) maximum velocity and accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in 3.6 s. Rated output of the 4.0-L V8, fitted with sequential turbochargers and 2500 bar (36,259 psi) fuel injection, is 310 kW (415 hp) and 850 N·m (627 lb·ft)—the peak torque available from 1000 rpm to 3250 rpm. Optimum fuel consumption according to engineers is 6.8 L/100 km NEDC.
The direct-injected gasoline engines have their turbos nestled between the cylinder banks to aid packaging and facilitate lower mounting for improved center of gravity. The 4.0-L V8 is fitted with VW's adaptive cylinder control (cylinder deactivation). In the Panamera Turbo version the V8 is rated at 405 kW (543 hp) at 5750 rpm. Peak torque (770 N·m / 568 lb·ft) is available from 1960 rpm to 4500 rpm. Claimed top speed is 306 km/h (190 mph).
The V6 that powers the Panamera 4S displaces 2.9 L and is rated at 324 kW (434 hp). With a claimed top speed of 289 km/h (179 mph) the V6 model is hardly a sluggard. More powerful engine variants are expected.
On the Turbo model, the rear spoiler divides as it deploys, thus increasing airfoil area and effect. The lower rear body has a diffuser with integrated exhaust tailpipes.
Also new is the car's manufacturing—it's now done entirely at Porsche's Leipzig plant. The 500 M euro investment includes an all-new body shop, Blume noted. Previously the Panamera white bodies were built and painted at VW's Hanover complex then transferred to Leipzig for final assembly.